Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Activists tell the Brazilian Congress to turn off the chainsaw

[UPDATE II: After 20 hours of fierce debate into early Thursday morning that saw Communist Party leader Aldo Rebelo trying to sneak last minute changes into his proposed law and slandering the husband of Marina Silva as a "timber thief", the session fell into chaos as an allied base group of the government split from the government coalition and enough deputies refused to respond to a quorum call that debate had to be cancelled. It is now scheduled to resume in 10 days. Here's a news report from the NY Times and a backgrounder from WWF.]

[UPDATE I: Tuesday's scheduled vote was delayed until tomorrow as Marina Silva mobilized a coalition of environmentalists into negotiations with the government to demand that the damaging aspects of the revised Forest Code proposed by Communist Party leader Aldo Rebelo be eliminated or that the entire issue be delayed for more scientific studies. Over 50 socio-environmental groups have joined the political mobilization of civil society at this defining moment in the struggle for the future of the Amazon Forest.]
Here is a report from Greenpeace on the some of reasons why they feel that what's going on is so important.

Some assume that the Amazon chainsaws have been quiet for the last few years.

In some ways it’s true: over the last ten years deforestation rates have been falling. Pressure from Greenpeace, our supporters and allies has helped broker deals which prevent companies from destroying the forest for leather, beef or soy.

However, the new protections have left agribusiness restless and now agribusiness has launched a new threat to one of Brazil’s most precious treasures-and one of the earth’s “lungs”- the Amazon.

Now, the Brazilian government is poised to decide the fate of the 80 year old ‘Forest Code,’ a crucial tool in protecting the Amazon over the years. Agribusiness and the Brazilian Rural Caucus see the Forest Code (and the rainforests for that matter) as an obstacle for more profits and they have poured millions into a Koch Brothers-style astroturf campaign to weaken the law and grant amnesty to plantations who have violated the law.

Today, (Tuesday, May 10,2011), the Brazilian House is scheduled to vote on the new changes.

A key destructive proposed change in the Forest Code is granting sweeping amnesty to farms and people that have violated the Forest Code. Just the buzz of amnesty over the last few months has spurred a new wave of illegal deforestation. Environmental criminals are so confident in amnesty being granted that they are turning on the chainsaws and clearing forests that are in their way.

It's understandable why these criminals believe amnesty is coming- at least 27 members of the Brazilian Congress have violated the forest code or own property cited for illegal deforestation. Now these members are writing new laws to clear their names.

Staggering amounts of forest are at stake- experts anticipate 850 Million Hectares- twice the size of California would fell under the new code. These forests would release over 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide – 5 times the gargantuan annual rate of the U.S.’s emissions.

Brazil has shown itself to be an example of how rainforest nations are able to turn the tide on deforestation without sacrificing economic growth. Through conservation initiatives, sophisticated monitoring, and engaging the industries driving deforestation Brazil has helped to turn the tide. These proposed changes to the Forest Code would erase decades of progress.

A coalition of Brazilian environmentalists, small farm owners, indigenous groups, and social movements such as Via Campesina and the Landless Movement have joined together to resist these drastic changes -changes that benefit agribusiness at the expense of Brazilian forests, forest communities, endangered species and the world at large.

More from the coalition opposing the Aldo Rebelo Forest Code here.

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